With Michail Antonio and other key players out injured, West Ham’s improbable bid for a first-ever Champions League qualification was thrown off track. One by one, they are returning. And a top-four finish in the Premier League – toppling some of English soccer’s biggest teams along the way – could still be on.
After nearly a month out, Antonio marked his comeback game with two goals as West Ham rallied to beat Burnley 2-1 and move within three points of fourth-placed Chelsea with four games left. West Ham’s run-in – featuring games against Everton and lowly trio Brighton, West Bromwich Albion, and Southampton – appears more benign than Chelsea, which must still play champion-elect Manchester City, Arsenal, Leicester, and Aston Villa.
Just as significant for West Ham manager David Moyes, his injury list is clearing up.
Antonio, the team’s star striker and joint-top scorer, and creative defender Aaron Cresswell made their returns against Burnley, and Declan Rice – the England-holding midfielder – is back in training after a knee injury that has kept him out since the end of March. Moyes’ side arrived at Turf Moor on the back of losses to Newcastle and Chelsea but looked a much more potent force with Antonio leading the line and Jesse Lingard floating behind.
Chris Wood, fresh off a hat trick at Wolverhampton, gave Burnley the lead from the penalty spot in the 19th minute after being fouled by Tomas Soucek. Still, Antonio equalized within two minutes by heading in Vladimir Coufal’s cross. Antonio then glanced in Said Benrahma’s whipped cross from the left with the slightest touches into the far corner in the 29th. West Ham vaulted Tottenham into fifth place and is four points clear of seventh-placed Liverpool, which has a game in hand after its match at Manchester United on Sunday was postponed because of fan protests against United’s American owners.